Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

Wear Two Hats as a Writer and Be Happy

Untitled by Demi-Brooke Photography via Flickr CC

A guest post by Teresa LeYung-Ryan.

I met Coach Teresa at the San Francisco Writers Conference in the session “Writing a Tagline That Will Sell You and Your Book that she co-taught with Elisa Sasa Southard.  After talking with Coach T, I have come to believe that everyone should have a personal tag line, but more importantly, everyone should know and appreciate who they are.  As part of her guest post, Coach T will share some of her tools to help you sort that out.

Coach Teresa LeYung-Ryan here.  Who do I coach?  Writers.  I help clients polish their manuscripts and map out their publishing journeys.

Teaching at San Francisco Writers Conference every year gives me the joy of seeing colleagues and meeting other fascinating writers, one of whom being Greg Marcus.  He hooked my attention with his mission statement: “I am a modern-day Abraham who smashes corporate idols and help the chronically overworked find a more fulfilling life.”

I checked out Greg’s  and his May 25, 2012 post Why Work More Than 50 Hours Per week? got me thinking about when I worked in a corporate setting 8:30am to 5:00pm.  Most days, by the time I “found” time to walk to the café for lunch it was already 3:00pm.  I reasoned with myself that by not taking a normal lunch break I didn’t have to wait in a long line to order my food.  Trouble was . . . the “daily special” was always sold out by the time I got there.  And, there was no one to talk to.  I was cheating myself.

Back at the office, I heard my coworkers say: “I didn’t even have time for lunch” or “I didn’t have time to use the toilet.”

That last statement really shocked me.

Depriving ourselves to that extent?  If we can’t take care of our basic needs, then how are we going to take care of our heart’s desires?

Fast forward . . .

“What is your heart’s desire?” is one of the initial questions I ask a new client.

Here’s a response I hear often. “I want to write a book,” says my client, “Trouble is finding the time to write. And the other obstacle . . . I hear that agents and publishers prefer to publish celebrities and best-selling authors, not unknowns.  Maybe I’ll self-publish, but, I’m so confused.”

This is what I say:  “I love helping writers reach out, not stress out.  Remember, in any story, the protagonist (main character) wants something, and the protagonist takes action to go after what he/she wants. You are the protagonist of your life.  If you want to be a happily published writer, you’re going to be wearing 2 hats  – one to work on the craft of writing, and the other to build your writer’s platform.  Polishing your craft gives you a quality product to sell. Identifying your platform gives you a chance to compete with more established authors and super famous people.  Be the protagonist.”

Unraveling the Mystery Of Platform

What is a platform?

Platform = “Making your name stand for something to attract targeted consumers who are likely to buy what you have to sell.”

What are you selling?  Your literary products.

Who are the “targeted” consumers?  People who buy literary products showcasing subjects they care about.

Making your name stand for something = making your name synonymous with the subject matters you write about (whether you’re writing fiction, narrative nonfiction or prescriptive nonfiction aka “how to” publications).

In other words, your platform is the equalizer that will let you overcome “rejections” from agents, publishers or the competition among authors.

First Step – Understand Your Values and Who You Are

Think back to a time when you wanted something whole-heartedly.  This want is related to your values, and is very personal.  To understand this relationship, try the two exercises below from my workbook,  Build Your Writer’s Platform & Fanbase In 22 Days: Attract Agents, Editors, Publishers, Readers, and Media Attention NOW which will help reveal your current values.

Your taking action (to see “who you are today” and what you have in common  with your role models) by doing the 2 exercises in Day 1 of my workbook = making your hopes and dreams a priority.  Your findings from the exercises reveal your current values.

Greg, thank you so much for inviting me to guest-blog!

Cheering for all writers to “Reach out, not stress out, to material your dearest dreams by wearing your 2 hats.”  And I hope you find the exercises below helpful!


Coach Teresa LeYung-Ryan

Exercise #1 of 2     WHO AM I?  If I want others to notice me, I need to notice myself. 

 Coach Teresa’s Example Page


I am Teresa LeYung-Ryan
Themes/Issues/Subject matterI write about: Modern courageous women unbeknownst to themselves; immigrant experiences; growing up with mental illness in family; child-witness to violence.
What’s unique about me? I’m the only Teresa LeYung Ryan.  LeYung is a name I created to honor my maternal & paternal families.
Some books I’d read again and again.  Book titles, authors’ names and genres  These works influence my own writing:Charlotte’s Webby E.B.White (children);Woman Warriorby Maxine Hong Kingston (memoir);Where the Heart Isby Billie Letts (novel);Wordsworth the Poetby Frances Kakugawa (children);Lost in Yonkers by Neil Simon (a play)
Who do I like to hang around with?  My friends & family members who do not judge themselves or others and are supportive of my dreams.
Hobbies that make me happy  Taking photos of friends and colleagues for their personal & business portfolios; preparing simple meals that are tasty & nutritious; making special occasion cards (using my photos and my LOVE MADE OF HEART trademark) for loved ones.
What groups am I a member of?  writers/other professional organizations/social/community/online Women’s National Book Association; California Writers Club;my mastermind group; writing-buddies; East Bay Regional Park District friends; the Fab Five; critique group;;;;;;;;;;
My Beliefs&Values “Everyone deserves to live joyfully. I play a role in world peace by being kind to my neighbors, coworkers, colleagues, friends, family and me.”
My Hopes and Dreams To touch lives with my writing; to receive the Pulitzer prize for a novel, memoir, play or screenplay.

YOUR TURN! WHO ARE YOU?   If YOU want others to notice YOU, you need to notice yourself.


I am: ______________           (your full name)
Themes/Issues/Subject matterI write about:
 What’s unique about me?
Some books I’d read again and again.  Book titles, authors’ names & genres These works influence my own writing:
 Who do I like to hang around with?
Hobbies that make me happy
 What groups am I a member of? writers/other professional organizations/social/community/onlineDon’t forget church, study, job-search groups, and PTA.
My Beliefs& Values
My Hopes and Dreams 


Exercise #2 of 2 “Follow particular footsteps.”

I want to build a name for myself; first, let me look at the names of the people I admire.  Pick three people you admire.  Here is Coach Teresa’s example page:        

  Maxine Hong Kingston Rita Lakin Ginger Rogers, deceased
What industry is she in?  Books Books Movies
 What do I think about when I hear her name?  Author of Woman Warrior; Chinaman; Fifth Book of Peace; To be a Poet; many others Author of the Gladdy Gold (70-year-old private investigator) comedy-mystery series; Getting Old Is A Disasteris book 5;Getting Old Is Tres Dangereux is book 6. Ballroom dancing;Romantic comedies; 
Themes/Issues What does she  symbolize/represent/


write about/

speak up for?

Experiences of Chinese immigrants living in the United States; feminist movement; war veterans Old age;Laughing at old age;Friendship;





Working class;Spunky women;Quirky women;

Single mothers;

Disparity between have and have-nots;

Adjectives to describe her or her protagonists Gracious; graceful; calm; articulate; quietly powerful Engaging, funny, warm, confident, prolific writer Funny, lively, graceful, adorable

What I (Teresa) have in common with these 3 super-famous people:

MAXINE:  being Chinese-American; write about immigrant experiences. 

RITA:  Women’s National Book Association; blend humor into sobering subjects;  protagonists modeled after our mothers.

GINGER:  protagonists are funny; quirky; spunky 


YOUR TURN!   “Follow particular footsteps,” says Coach Teresa.

YOU want to build a name for yourself; first, let’s look at the names of people you admire.  You’re a big fan of:  (these people could be in any industry, however, include at least one author)

Celebrity #1  Celebrity #2 Celebrity #3
What industry isshe/he in?      
What do you think of when you hear her/his name?      
Themes/Issues:What does she/he  symbolize/represent/portray/write about/speak up for?      
 Adjectives to describe her/him      


What YOU have in common with these 3 super-famous people:




Coach Teresa LeYung-Ryan happily wears two hats:


  1. Greg Marcus says

    Thank you Coach Teresa for a great post. I’ve found that advice for writers is often applicable in business and life. Your post is no exception. Writers are a one-person business, and can’t separate the product from the platform.

    • Greg,

      Thank you again for giving me the opportunity to guest-blog. You are so right — the business of being a writer does require the balancing act of writing (producing) and platform-building (hooking attention). Why get stressed out? Instead, reach out.

      Coach Teresa LeYung-Ryan
      Editor, Story Consultant, Platform-Building Coach

  2. Thank you Greg for bringing Teresa to guest post here. This was a very informative post, and as a writer/blogger, I found myself soaking this up because I’m starting to think more about services I can sell via my blog. This idea about having a platform–making your name stand for something–is something I’ve been thinking about lately, and I’m trying to focus in on that. I think I’m close, but I also think there’s more to it than just discovering it yourself–that once you discover it, you have to promote the idea and get people to believe it to–right? Also, I was wondering about these two exercises. How do they help you to discover your platform? In other words, how do I take the stuff I come up with here and apply it to make it a tagline?

    • Greg Marcus says

      Dear Bethany,
      Thank you, and I am glad that Teresa’s post was helpful. It sounds like you are in a good place – it takes time to pull all of this together. I agree, discoving what you stand for is only the first step, but a necessary step. My take on these exercises is that they help combat the fear and intimidation that new writers can feel when they look at famous people and the competitive landscape. OMG, who would read me? How can I compete with that? But famous people are people, and we have more in common with them than we realize. And this exercise is a fun way to start seeing the cool, unique things about ourselves that we take for granted. Also, these two exercises are the first in a series in her workbook “Build Your Writer’s Platform & Fanbase In 22 Days: Attract Agents, Editors, Publishers, Readers, and Media Attention NOW.”(link above.) I will let Coach T comment on this further, and how to get to the tagline.

    • Hi, Bethany,

      Greg is right-on — your honest responses to the 2 exercises from Day 1 of my 22-day workbook are eye-openers.

      Your question: ” . . . how do I take the stuff I come up with here and apply it to make it a tagline?
      My questions to you:
      What themes/subject matters compel you to write?
      What themes/subject matters hook your attention when you’re the reader?

      As my colleague Elisa Sasa Southard (the talking-tagline guru) would say: “Start with I CAN . . . ”
      And I say: Speak your name; add the action-verb; complete the statement with how your work helps people.

      From now on, introduce yourself with your full name. When someone asks you: “What do you do?” . . . you answer with a sentence that includes an action verb.


      (as a novelist) Through my book Love Made of Heart, I can help mothers and daughters speak from the heart.
      (as a narrative nonfiction writer) Through my essays and speeches, I speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves.
      (as a prescriptive nonfiction aka “how to” writer) Through my coaching and workbook, I show writers how to gain fans before and after publication.

      Also, you may be asking: “Why 22 days?”
      Because . . . when we stick to something for 21 consecutive days, we develop a new habit. Why not gain the wonderful habit of building our platform/name? On the 22nd day, we celebrate. Everyday is a good day to build your name / fanbase / platform!


      Coach Teresa LeYung-Ryan
      Editor, Story Consultant, Platform-Building Coach

  3. Teresa and Greg, thank you for your responses here. This is excellent. Here’s my answer to the who are you question: I’m Bethany Jo Lee and I can encourage you to keep moving forward in your endeavors. 🙂 That’s a start, maybe not perfect, but I like the lesson here. I need your 22 day book! 🙂

  4. I just bought her book and tweeted it! I’m very excited to read it. 🙂 Thanks Greg.

    • Greg Marcus says

      Glad to hear it! Come back and tell us your tag line when you are done.

  5. Bethany Jo Lee,
    Your tagline: “I can encourage you to keep moving forward in your endeavors” is wonderful !
    You’ll see how your tagline and the 5 secret keys in my workbook will lead you to bigger and bigger connections.
    I’m cheering for you!
    Coach Teresa LeYung-Ryan
    “Reach out, not stress out, to materialize your dearest dreams.”

  6. aww… thanks Teresa! I can’t wait to get your book! 🙂

  7. Tagline? What’s a tagline? Why do I need a tagline?
    Sincerely (sort of),
    Dave DiGrazie
    Author, Dad, Pizza Guy.

    • Dave,

      What is a tagline and why do you need one? A tagline distinguishes you and your products/services from your colleagues and their taglines.

      You already have the subject-nouns for your tagline(s): author; dad; pizza guy
      Add an action-verb and an indirect object and you have a tagline.

      Dave DiGrazie is a father who helps other fathers _________________.

      Greg Marcus’s tagline is: Greg Marcus smashes corporate idols and helps the chronically overworked find a more fulfilling life.

      I have several:
      (as a novelist and playwright) Teresa LeYung-Ryan helps mothers and daughters speak from the heart.
      (as a narrative nonfiction writer and speech writer) Teresa LeYung-Ryan speaks out for those who cannot speak for themselves.
      (as a prescriptive nonfiction aka “how to” writer) Through her coaching and workbook, Teresa LeYung-Ryan shows writers how to gain fans before and after publication.

      When you have your tagline, be sure to replace old tagline with new tagline on your blog’s settings and your website’s page settings.

      Also, watch the video on Elisa Sasa Southard’s website:

      July 14, 2012, noon-2:00pm I will be at: “Writers on Writing”- Teresa LeYung-Ryan and colleagues on a panel that Kim McMillon is orchestrating at Oakland Public Library, Rockridge Branch, Oakland, CA

      Coach Teresa
      As coach and author of Build Your Writer’s Platform & Fanbase In 22 Days: Attract Agents, Editors, Publishers, Readers, and Media Attention NOW, Teresa says: “Whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction, make your name synonymous with the issues you write about.”

  8. I am ex-teacher and this so resonates with me. I need to work on this to better describe who I am, what I’m about and what I hope to accomplish with my blog. Your exercises above will give that push to start putting that together. Because I am dyslexic it takes a bit longer then most, but I have printed it off to start the process. I also expect I will be getting your book as well. Thanks so much for your thoughtful guest post. It is very timely for me. 🙂

  9. Susan! (Hello to Greg too!)

    I’m a big fan of teachers and librarians. Cheers to you!

    Here are two other posts about speaking your full name and using three simple-yet-powerful words when describing yourself and your work. “I care about . . . ”

    Susan, have fun building your platform in 22 days! I look forward to seeing your “tags” and “mission statements.”

    Coach Teresa LeYung-Ryan
    author of: Build Your Writer’s Platform & Fanbase In 22 Days: Attract Agents, Editors, Publishers, Readers, and Media Attention NOW